Watch the design evolution of the bicycle
in a one-minute animation


This short movie by Danish animator Thallis Vestergaard traces the history of the bicycle from its invention in the eighteenth century up to the present day (+ movie).

Evolution of the Bicycle by Thallis Vestergaard
The Boneshaker velocipede by Pierre Lallement

Produced by Visual Artwork, a studio based in Denmark, Evolution of the Bicycle is a brief look at the different variations the two-wheeler has gone through in its 200-year history. It highlights how the design of the bike changed through the innovations and whims of different inventors.

Evolution of the Bicycle by Thallis Vestergaard
Velocifere by Comte Mede de Sivrac

The sequence starts in 1790 with the Velocifere by Frenchman Comte Mede de Sivrac. His invention featured two wheels, a piece of wood and a horse saddle, and is said to be the first instance of a bicycle, but had no steering.

Evolution of the Bicycle by Thallis Vestergaard
Dandy Horse by Denis Johnson

Sivrac's creation was improved upon by English inventor Denis Johnson, whose Dandy Horse, unveiled in 1818, attached a steering bar, increased the size of the wheels and made the bike lighter than Sivrac's.

Evolution of the Bicycle by Thallis Vestergaard
First pedal powered rear-wheel driven bicycle by Kirkpatrick MacMillan

In 1839, Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scottish blacksmith inspired by steam locomotives, created the world's first pedal powered rear-wheel driven bicycle.

Evolution of the Bicycle by Thallis Vestergaard
Penny-Farthing by Eugene Meyer

Then in 1869, Frenchman Eugene Meyer created the Penny-Farthing, whose name was a reference to the oversized front wheel and disproportionately small rear one. He is also credited as the inventor of the wire-spoke tension wheel which is still used today.

Evolution of the Bicycle by Thallis Vestergaard
American Star bicycle by G.W. Pressey

Designers continued to play with the idea of different sized wheels, including G.W. Pressey's American Star bicycle. This version swapped the large front and small wheel round, making it easier to steer.

Evolution of the Bicycle by Thallis Vestergaard
Rover Safety Bicycle by J.K. Starley

It wasn't until 1885 that the public first saw what would become the standard shape for a bike. J.K. Starley's Rover Safety Bicycle featured two identically sized wheels, a saddle perched between them, and peddles attached to a crank, which drove a chain to turn the back wheel.

Evolution of the Bicycle by Thallis Vestergaard
Current day bicycle by C.D. Rice

The design was refined by C.D. Rice before the development of the racing handle bars and simple saddle attachment we know today, which feature in the final evolution of the animated bike before it cycles away.

  • Inspired by student animation projects.

    There are a couple student bike animations that look fairly similar on Vimeo and YouTube.

    • rem

      Also, Comte Mede de Sivrac never existed and the alleged Velocifère (usually named Célérifère, btw) was a hoax designed after the 1870 war to boast French pride (we couldn’t deal with the fact that the draisienne had been invented by a German).

    • Visual Artwork


      Could you please link to the videos you have in mind?


      • Ok, mobile wouldn’t let me post the link earlier. Here’s on that I could find on my laptop.

        I’ve seen similar animations when I was in college by design students. Not claiming that you are copying anyone, just stating that it seems logical that this would have been done a number of times.

  • Andy

    This animation should be called the evolution of a hipstermobile. I love the thought of Victorians floating around Shoreditch on their bikes equipped with a nauseating sense of liberal righteousness and trimmed facial hair.

    • tony

      As far as I can tell a hipster is anything people don’t like, yeah why don’t they all grow up and get cars already, don’t be a jerk.